Agenda item

Responding to the COVID 19 Pandemic - The Volunteer Response

To consider the report of the Chief Officer for Communities, which sets out the work that Leeds City Council, Voluntary Action Leeds and other organisations undertook to respond community needs in the initial phase of the Covid-19 Pandemic.



The report of the Chief Officer Communities sets out the work that Leeds City Council (LCC), Voluntary Action Leeds (VAL) and other organisations undertook to respond community needs in the initial phase of the Covid-19 Pandemic


The following information had been appended to the report:

o  Tier 1 numbers, activities and organisations supported (Appendix 1)

o  Participant organisations (Appendix 2)

o  Referral data (Appendix 3)

o  Case studies (Appendix 4)

The Board noted of an amendment to Appendix 2. The Chapel Allerton Hub coordination lead had been listed as ‘Feel Good Factor’, but should read “The Orion Partnership and Touchstone”.


The following were in attendance for this item:

o  Shaid Mahmood, Chief Officer Communities

o  Councillor Coupar, Executive Member for Communities

o  Councillor Hayden, Scrutiny Chair Adults Health & Active Lifestyles

o  Martin Dean, Area Leader, Communities & Environment

o  James Woodhead, Head of Commissioning Integration

o  Rachael Loftus, Head of Regional Partnerships

o  Vic Clarke-Dunn, Programme Manager Service Transformation

o  Gary Blake, Voluntary Action Leeds

o  Richard Jackson, Voluntary Action Leeds


Front Line Volunteering Leadership

o  Bernie Gahan, Centre Manager Leeds Mencap

o  Alisa Rhodes, CEO Older People’s Action (OPAL)

o  Debbie Forsyth, Avsed

o  Shanaz Gill, Hamara

o  Vicar Richard Dimery, Pudsey Parish


The Chief Officer Communities introduced the report and provided some context on the role of local authorities, the Third Sector and volunteering arrangements to help support and meet the needs of citizens in Leeds. Arrangements had been set up at short notice and learning had been taken from workshops with the Third Sector and the Faith Sector, following the role of volunteering post flooding.


Leeds City Council (LCC) and Voluntary Action Leeds (VAL) colleagues were invited were invited to address the Board on the Volunteer Programme. The following information had been highlighted:

Tier 1

·  Tasks were to be undertaken to provide more intensive support,  including driving people to medical appointments and providing support inside their homes;

·  485 volunteers confirmed to having enhanced DBS requirements for this type of work and has been a joint effort;

·  Work from colleagues whom have been re-deployed volunteers have supported other organisations and services in Leeds such as the Age UK Hospital to Home scheme, Forward Leeds and the Leeds & York Partnership Foundation Trust (LYPFT).


Tier 2

·  The programme attracted nearly 8,000 across Leeds signing up and of those 5,400 completed their induction ready to be deployed;

·  Complexities with identification badges;

·  LCC telephone helpline to receive requests from the public;

·  Welfare support offer;

·  Third Sector organisations in Leeds have responded to the Pandemic by supporting their communities.


Tier 3

·  Thousands of people stepped up to help support neighbourhoods and communities;

·  VAL produced the ‘Being a Good Neighbour Pack’ providing guides and materials to help offer safe support;

·  Blogs sought to continuously highlight ongoing activity;

·  Volunteers that have not yet been deployed, have been encouraged to help neighbours.


The Board were provided with an update on the development of the “RUOK?” befriending service, with oversight by the Leeds Older People’s Forum. The service was currently In the process of standing down, whilst ensuring service users receive their wellbeing calls.


The Chair invited Front Line Volunteering partners to provide an update on work that had been undertaken during the Pandemic. The following key information had been highlighted:



·  Staff had conducted wellbeing sessions from home;

·  The Hub provided 70 hot meals per day, as well as supporting existing service users;

·  Cultural food tailored pack and working with families;

·  Challenges identified with language barriers;

·  20-25 food parcels was distributed per day, and up to 90 on a Friday;

·  Worked closely with organisations across the city.



·  Support from LCC and VAL staff;

·  Partnerships with other organisations strengthened to meet the needs of local people;

·  Supporting the elderly cohorts emotional needs;

·  Challenges with the LCC food purchasing system / pre-paid vouchers;

·  Distribution of food parcels.



·  Challenges surrounding no offers from other organisations to form a partnership;

·  Large numbers of volunteers;

·  Food and prescription distribution;

·  LCC voucher scheme worked well, and enabled bespoke shopping;

·  Challenges with staff stress and limited capacity of staff dealing with numerous calls;

·  Longer-term challenges in terms of service users’ wellbeing.


Leeds Mencap

·  Good volunteer response and partnerships;

·  600 food parcels had been distributed in the first week, and over 3 thousand food parcels distributed from partners;

·  Identified the good working partnerships, and encouraged these carry on long-term.


Pudsey Parish

·  Experience of dealing with the elderly cohort and volunteers;

·  Received a large number of referrals;

·  Church activities moved to an online method;

·  Main source of work has been food parcels, shopping, prescriptions and be-friending services;

·  Clothes bank for younger children had been set up;

·  Considerations as to how local organisations are promoted – joined up approach.


Members discussed a number of matters, including:

·  Distribution of cultural food – Members expressed concern regarding the range of cultural food distributed in local communities, to help support diverse communities. Members were assured that a range of large quantities of cultural food had been distributed, and offered to pick separate issues outside of the meeting with local ward councillors.

·  Quality of food for shielded citizensMembers expressed concern on the quality of food being provided in the food parcels and the complexities around registering as a volunteer. In response, Members were informed a high volume of residents required assistance with food and a local approach had been taken to assist with dietary and cultural requirements due to the national food offer not providing those. Additionally, Members heard that following the shielded cohort not receiving their priority deliveries, community hubs assisted in providing food parcels.

·  Liaison with Government on communications – Members expressed concern regarding the previous issues with vulnerable citizens being unable to online shop and the coordination of volunteers. Members were informed close collaborative work had been undertaken with the Government nationally, however it is the role of the local authority to contextualise matters for Leeds. Preventative work would be on-going with supermarkets, and encouraging residents to register online for priority deliveries.

·  Financial concerns in local communities – Members raised concern on the long term impacts in communities regarding the furlough scheme and money spent. A suggestion was made to lobby Government on providing additional income to help support communities.


The Chair thanked everybody for their contributions.


RESOLVED – The Scrutiny Board (Environment, Housing and Communities):

a)  Noted the contents of the report, together with comments raised by the Board;

b)  Requested that, a statement report be circulated reflecting the contributions made by councillors, officers and volunteers on the refining of current volunteer hub arrangements and a longer term coordinated volunteering arrangement.


Supporting documents: